If someone were to ask me which project management skill is most crucial to the success of a hedge fund project manager, I would say communication. Take it a step further and ask me which part of a project initiative is most important to a project’s success, and I would say project structure.
I am a big proponent of transparency. Project structure serves as a base for the assignment of project tasks to team members because it greatly increases transparency across all levels. When done effectively, it helps control costs, analyze risks, measure performance and break project complexities into manageable parts (building blocks). Breaking a project down into applicable building blocks of structure (called “work packages”) is most effective because it forces the project manager to know something about the essential aspects of project planning.
Using Building Blocks to Form Project Structure
In project management, work packages are the smallest dividable subtasks of a project. They are the basic building blocks of the project itself, and subsequently the smallest resource-assignable, enclosed work units.
Project work packages must have five requirements:
And in order for work packages to be established, a project manager is called to answer the six “W” questions:
- Who: Who is involved?
- What: What do I want to accomplish?
- Where: Identify a location.
- When: Establish a time frame.
- Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
When these work packages are established, the project manager can then move on to strategize the project plan. Projects are typically strategized in two ways:
Top-down (or step-wise)
Top-down planning is focused on keeping the decision making process at the senior level. Goals and quotas are established at the highest level, and project resources are not included in any of the decision-making process. With top-down planning, the project resources assume the project manager knows best how to plan and carry out a project.
Although this method of planning does not take advantage of the input talented project resources may bring to the table, its benefit is that it concentrates on promoting the concept of making a plan (as opposed to “who” develops the plan). It allows the project manager to divide a project into steps, and then into smaller steps. This continues until the steps can be studied and the due-dates and tasks can be assigned to resources.
Bottom-up (or tactics)
Bottom-up planning gives projects a deeper focus because a larger number of resources are involved in the decision-making process, each with their own area of expertise. Team members work side-by-side and have input during each part of the project process. Plans are developed at the lowest levels and are then passed on to each next higher level, before ultimately reaching the project manager for approval.
How do you typically develop your project structure?
For more project management tips, read some of Demetrios Gianniris' other blog articles:
- Obstacles of Project Management
- What Project Management Is Not
- Multitasking Tips: Part I and Part II
Demetrios Gianniris is Director of Project & Technology Management (PTM) at Eze Castle Integration. He is responsible for overseeing the daily administration and operations of the Project Management team, including project design development, construction management, professional services and information technology consulting. Follow Demetrios on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dgianniris.
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